First Published: The Worker, No. 9, May 8, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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“Our Party does not subscribe to the view that world war necessarily brings revolution. I would prefer to put it the other way: revolution prevents world war”, Reg Birch, Chairman of the Communist of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) said at the May Day meeting held at Conway Hall, London. Greeting workers all over the world; spoke of the international situation and the situation in Britain in respect to the great Issues of war and revolution.
“Just now there is great clamour about the threat of World War III. In history’s time it is overdue: it has been longer than a quarter of a century since the last. That does not make it inevitable and, unlike some, our Party does not subscribe to the view that world war necessarily brings revolution, I would prefer to put it the other way: revolution prevents world war. If you get revolution out of war, that is a bonus; but you have to be alive to conduct it.”
“It was true that in the First World War by 1917 the great Bolshevik Party had triumphed and the Russian workers had seized power having turned an imperialist war into the capture of power for the working class and having contributed to the establishment throughout the world of communist parties. In the Second World War, a world saved by the Red Army’s blood and the loss of so many young, the fat old men seized power in the Soviet Union and the revisionists came into their own. Soviet imperialism was born. And many of those communist parties founded after the Bolshevik revolution fell by the way side.”
“We do not need any warnings about that. Nor do we share the view that, in some automatic way, out of chaos comes progress. We say instead: progress will create chaos for the capitalists. That is our business. We must put them in disarray.”
“If we listen to much that is said about the 1st, 2nd and 3rd worlds, we are invited to believe that the 3rd world, some homogeneous unit of progressive, liberation-seeking peoples, will join the 2nd world, capitalists and imperialists but not so much so, and cooperating together face the 1st world of super powers, Soviet imperialism and US imperialism.” “Is that likely’? Can we believe that capitalism will ever join anybody on the path of progress!”
“We do not need anyone telling us that the Common Market is good for us. You try telling that to people in the streets around here. Or that NATO with its neo-Nazis and Yankee generals is an effective barrier against the imperialist powers. We do not need people telling us beware of the enemy at the gate, arm and be ready, stand shoulder to shoulder with the bourgeois army against the Soviet. Of course we have to defend. But remembering Franco and Spain we cannot forget the Fifth Column inside our country either. We do not require war mongers to frighten us. We have a war to fight here and that is what we must do.”
Reg Birch asked if there was, in fact, some homogeneous mass called the third world, all on a single path of progress struggling for liberation and socialism. “Is it so? Are they all of such a development?’ I wish it were so.”
“When we consider the question of world war we have to remember those wars made by the so-called 1st and 2nd worlds on the so-called 3rd world. We can only say we have not had war since the Second World War if we conveniently forget Malaya, if we conveniently forget Korea and Vietnam, all ingredients of potential world war. Especially if we forget the war waged by British imperialism in Ireland. But we cannot forget any of those things: A propos Ireland our Party remembers its brave demo in 1969 with the demand “British Troops out of Ireland” and the running arguments we had all the way from the Park to Trafalgar Square!”
“In Africa, in Latin America, in the Middle East, wherever Marxism is not in command, there is much confusion. And the EEC?
“Nowhere can we see a homogeneous unit joined together, free in purpose and striding forward –except in Albania and in China. That is the world we are talking about.”
“And what about here? We communists have no need to be the Theoreticians, great, clever people. We are not required to be the mentors of the working class – only of it. They alone will resolve the question of their own freedom. They alone are the revolutionary force. The task of our party, which is of the working class and in it, is to accelerate that movement. We are proud as a Party of what has been achieved already. We are sad only about our inadequacies, our lack of impact that is so necessary today.”
“We have yet to smash social democracy. And soon they will seek to put us in a great quandary
“Mr. Callaghan says there will be an election in ’78, Shall we have Callaghan? Shall we have Thatcher? What kind of a choice is that? The very idea of putting crosses on bits of paper is an insult to our literacy. “
“Let us talk of what we know our place of work. We know the battles that have gone on where we have been and where we have watched others – agonising battles. The bulk of the struggles you have witnessed recently in economic terms have been Vicar of Bray battles, chopping and changing as they went along. Let us consider also one of the best battles that Workers have ever joined together in, based on a principle, the Trico women’s battle for equal pay. Black and White together, only asking: Are you with us or against us?”
Straight, simple, classic thinking, indomitable, unbeatable.
“Ford stewards say they will not have the social contract again, But then they apologise for their temerity by saying that it was necessary for phases one and two. If it was necessary then, why should we not have another ten? Indeed why should we not carry the arguments is in a pickle. We know that the social democrats in the time of the Labour Government do a better job of conning the working class than the Tories do. So why don’t we all go to work for a year for now and make capitalism under a Labour Government really profitable again!”
“There is no substitute in this land for the trade union machinery that exists, so laboriously constructed with such great sacrifice within the trade union movement. In that area of struggle where such primitive weapons are required there is not a better one. We do not want parallelism. We want our membership to seize that which has been made by them and run it. Instead of being told what to do, run it for ourselves.”
“The Scottish TUC yaps that it wants the social contract. Now the Welsh TUC. Soon with devolution we will no doubt have the Cornish TUC and the London one all over again. Healey tells us that we must’ not lose the fruits of our sacrifice. The fruits of his sacrifice would be nothing but a bad taste in our mouths. ’We must have some flexibility’ he says ’and we must take care of differentials’. Well, if you fall for it, then you deserve it. You have got to see in your own place of work that it does not happen.”
“We want no social contract. We are not even asking for a return to ’free collective bargaining’. It is too costly. We simply say: we’ve had enough of the lot of you. What we require now is revolution. We don’t need a social contract; we do need socialism.”
“We can see now the strength of our working class even in its frustration. It is a disciplined army. It has to be. It is a workers’ army. It is not allowed the privilege of saying I’m in favour of gradualism. I’m in favour of propping up capitalism. We cannot say I’ll contract out of the social contract: it’s all right for you. We cannot wish the factory down the road to have bad conditions but we’ll go on strike over ours. There cannot be rat shops anywhere.”
“We will not even get involved in the argument about whether getting rid of the social contract means the weakest going to the wall. As if everybody does not know that nothing succeeds like success and lower paid wages are based on higher. For everyone to run as fast as he can is the only way for us all.”
“In this land our function, our job is to remember the heritage which out of class relationships and struggle is ours as Marxists. All Marx ever wrote was learned from class conflict. It was we the working class in this world, and first in Britain, who were the inspirers of all that theory and all that reason. We have the job to say: there is no easy road, there is not a gradual road, there is not a civilised road – not when you are dealing with barbarians. Capitalism is barbaric. It has outlasted its time. It must go. That is the task of our Party. It is your job too, all of you, wherever you are, to struggle for the emancipation of the working class in this land.”